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  • Writer's pictureJade Tang-Taylor

A Brush with Design: 10 Designers Dish on Their First Design Encounter — Jade Tang-Taylor

Updated: Jan 11

In the lead up to DA’s 10th birthday celebrations in March 2019, A Brush With Design asks 10 designers who have been involved with DA at various times to nostalgically recount their first memory of encountering design. In this sixth iteration we spoke with “designer, dreamer, doer” Jade Tang-Taylor.

Similar to Louise, my love for design was a gradual one…

My first memory and encounter of Art & Design was literally with a brush. From winning school art painting projects at a early age, staying behind in Art, Design & Photography classes, then leading the inaugural Arts Committee at high school.

However, I think the pivotal moment was when I received a Vice Chancellor’s scholarship to study at AUT, which in turn meant I could choose my area of study Bachelor of Art & Design (or B.A.D as we used to called it) rather than go down the highly encouraged Doctor, Law, Accountant route that many of my friend’s Asian parents often encouraged them to pursue.

Yes, let’s be honest, my dorkiness and my eagerness to learn something new and love of all things art and design started at a pretty young age. But it wasn’t until my AUT student exchange trip in Mexico where it really open my eyes to a world of another kind. I had grown up in a low socioeconomic environment, attended decile 3 schools, but actually seeing first hand extreme poverty, living next to extreme wealth prompted me to begin questioning my ability as a young designer and what I could actually do with my skills to make a difference in the world. And it was from that experience, that the seed of my passion Design for Social Good, Design for Social Change and /or Design for Social Impact was planted.

Since then, I can think of three pivotal projects and roles that have significantly shaped & influenced my perception of what “Design for Social Good” is today.

  1. Co-Directing yMedia; a social enterprise that worked to connect students, industry and not-for-profit organisations to develop and implement new media initiatives for collective growth. Co-Founded by Pamela Minnett & Adele Barlow, they tracked me down via a facebook group I setup for AUT alumni/graduates from 2006 and I got involved with yMedia soon after I graduated. Upon reflection, The yMedia Challenge really showed me the power of collective impact, win/win/win stakeholder collaborations, and using creativity for social good. Which led me to…

  2. Co-Founding Curative; a creative agency that works to help make things a little better. Co-Founded by Eddy Royal & I, we had worked/played together through our experience at yMedia where a lot of these not-for-profit organisations continued to approach us with work beyond the challenge. So we decided to make the jump and start our own creative agency for social good. Upon reflection, Curative really showed me the power of a creative community, focusing in on social change clients and doing what you love / loving what you do. Even though I exited the company at the end of 2016, I still really believe in the good work they continue to do.

  3. Judging the inaugural Public Good award category at BEST; in 2015 the Designer’s Institute of New Zealand announced a new category at BEST. And I was honoured to be asked to help judge and shape the judging criteria for the inaugural Designers Institute of New Zealand’s BEST Public Good award. Upon reflection, I learnt that the best way to create “Public (or Social) Good” isn’t necessarily to Design for communities, but to Design with communities.

And now, I’m currently:

  • Part-time Lecturing at AUT; in an innovation unit that sits with the Art + Design school but teaches students across the business school, engineering, hospitality, colab, etc for a unique experience of interdisciplinary learning and opportunity to collaborate on industry/community projects utilising visual communication, design thinking, and strategic design.

  • Part-Time Consulting at The Centre for Social Impact; we help grant-makers and funders invest for impact, and enables their community partners to turn that investment into inspiring and sustainable social change.

I really believe in the democratisation of design, where design is a mindset, rather than purely an output and if we are to solve some of these complex wicked problems we need ways of creatively communicating, strategically collaborating, co-designing and working together to solve them.

I also believe that many of the best solutions are thought up by diverse teams and groups of people. Whether that be diversity of gender, diversity of ethnicity, sexuality, disability and/or diversity of thought. So whilst I’m still very passionate about Design for Social Impact, I also have a renewed focus and particular interest on diversity.

There has been a multitude of other experiences, events and moments of inspiration that have helped cultivate that love of design for social good and the wider creative community. From my first experience attending, connecting & then speaking at a Design Assembly event, being Community Manager of The Big Idea, and of course being the co-founder and co-host (alongside Kaan Hiiini) of the Auckland Chapter of CreativeMornings.

Upon reflection, my memory and encounters of ‘A brush with Design’ or more specifically “Design for Social Good” are a bit like the overall Design process…

Wait, or maybe that’s just life in general?

In closing, if you’re like me, interested learning more and passionate about design for social change, here’s a recommended reading list:


Originally published in Design Assembly

Editor: Lana Lopesi

Date: August 2019

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